This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
After the Church of Rome had preached against the God-ordained law of the tithe, it found itself in the pitiable plight of poverty. To escape from the sad but inevitable consequences of its sin, it sought to replenish its empty coffers by introducing pilgrimages to its thousand shrines, with their bones of saints, sacred relics and pretended miracles. The divine law was supplanted by the sale of indulgences, and giving as an act of worship found its place usurped by lotteries, festivals, shows, theatres and every device by which priestcraft could extort money from a people who knew not the Word of God.
It is only to be lamented that the Protestant Churches have in any measure been given to the use of any of these iniquitous plans for raising money. Too many of our churches which have been dedicated to the glory of God are desecrated by fairs, oyster suppers, dramas, tableaux, lectures, shows, exhibitions and various other things which are ruinous to the financial as well as the spiritual prosperity of the church. Money is not valuable enough to be purchased at so ruinous a price, and the fewer unholy people we gather into the church by these unholy means, the better for the church and for the world.
The process by which a church fair pays church debts is thus described by a Presbyterian elder: "Now, brethren, let us get up a supper and eat ourselves rich. Buy your food. Then give it to the church. Then go buy it back again. Then eat it up, and then - your church debt is paid."
Some time since a young lady inquired by letter of the New York Tribune how she could raise some money for a small country church. She writes:
"Do you think it would be advisable to attempt a concert? We have had calico parties, sugar parties, fish ponds, mock post-offices and the like. If you can suggest some new form of entertainment you will earn our sincerest thanks."
To this the Tribune answers: "We recommend a revival of religion." This is decidedly the best answer and the best method that could be given. A revival of genuine religion so awakens the spirit of benevolence and unites the hearts and efforts of Christians, that all the money needed to carry on the work of the church is freely contributed.
At one of the Christian Conventions, Mr. Moody was asked: "Are church fairs and sociables wrong?"
Mr. Moody answered: "Decidedly! I have not always thought so, but my eyes are open now. It is better to ask direct for money than entice a man to a church fair and make him pay a dollar and a half for an article that cost fifty cents. He goes home and says he has been swindled, but consoles himself with the reflection that he has benefited the church. The idea is that young men go to such entertainments because there are pretty women there. It does no good and certainly should be discouraged."
"In Scotland it is one of the principles of the United Presbyterian Church not to accept money for sacred uses from unclean hands. As God's agents, or min-isters, they decline to take for Him money that, as far as they can see, has not been honestly made.
"When the great Glasgow Bank failure took place some of the directors were members of the United Presbyterian congregations of that city, and one or more of them were large givers - almost the support of their particular churches. When, by the judgment of the civil courts, they were declared to have been guilty of systematic fraud for some years back, their liberal donations were all returned to them, although it more than crippled the congregations who did it."
This was a wisdom which, to most churches, would appear folly, but no surer course could be pursued to secure the divine blessing. If some congregations, such as are almost everywhere to be found, were to refund what they have secured by means of neck-tie parties, exhibitions, oyster suppers and similar devices, they would be robbed of even the little they now seem to have.
We know of no arguments in favor of such entertainments as have been indicated, and some of the arguments against them might be briefly stated as follows:
1. In proportion as they are more frequently used do they despoil the church of its spiritual power.
2. Those who labor faithfully for the success of the enterprise are apt to suffer from unkind speech, or unjust suspicion, in the management of the finances.
3. In most cases they are employed by Christians who withhold from God that which he requires at their hands, while they seek to cany forward the work of the church by drawing the needed funds from "outsiders." They covet the wealth of the wicked, and seek opportunity to gain their influence and money. "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
4. If not universally, yet quite generally, they alienate from the church some of its most useful members.
5. Whatever other effect these entertainments may god's plan have upon those who are not church members, they surely will not lead poor sinners to the cross of Christ.
6. Those most worldly-minded in the congregation are sure to desire, and apt to succeed, in being at the head of these entertainments, and guard them as best we may, they are almost sure to introduce into them such features as are ruinous to the best interests of the church; a disgusting song spoils the concert, a dou-ble-entendre the exhibition, cordials, cider and cigars the picnic, a hetrodox statement or irreligious sentiment the lecture - on, and on through the whole list the devil is determined to be in somewhere, or his personal friends will denounce the pastor as an "old fogy," get enraged because they cannot have their own way, dismember the congregation, and then leave in disgust.
7. Last, but by no means the least, of all the evils, is the undeniable fact that church fairs, oyster suppers, and the whole round of church entertainments are fatal to every impulse and principle of genuine scriptural benevolence.
As God did not design that congregations should ever go into debt in building churches, He gives us no plan for getting them out of debt. The only light which the Bible throws upon this question would have to be gathered from the plans which God has given for securing the means necessary to erect structures for his worship. The reader is referred to that department in Chapter V.